Delightfully Nutritious Parsley

The Link, Spring 2018
| by Louise Racine |

After a long winter of delicious, warming foods most of us are craving fresh, bright flavours in our diet. That’s all part of the natural cycle with spring traditionally being a time of cleansing – our homes and our bodies.

One way to clean up our diet is to shift the focus to lighter, less dense foods. Fresh herbs are an inexpensive option that appeals not only to the palate. Certain herbs can also provide an important nutritional boost.

Take parsley for instance. It’s one of the most common and readily available herbs all year round. In historical times, parsley was thought to remove bitter feelings in the same way it eliminated bad odours. Chewing fresh parsley has been a long-standing antidote to bad breath.

Most commonly considered as a decorative garnish, parsley is definitely worthy of being included in your diet. Unfortunately it’s often the only thing left on a plate when in fact it might have been the most nutritious!

…shift the focus to lighter, less dense foods.”

Parsley is not just for culinary styling – it is rich in vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, K, C and E, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, choline, folates, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and copper.

The nutrients in parsley are said to help counter inflammation, build immunity and manage diabetes. Parsley is high in enzymes so it can aid digestion.

There are two types of parsley typically found on store shelves – flat leaf and curly leaf. Ever wonder about the difference? Flat leaf parsley (also known as Italian parsley) is usually preferred by chefs. However, the taste of either is similar and varies according to where it is grown and other factors, so they can be substituted for each other. Another factor to consider would be which texture would be best for the dish you are preparing. Curly parsley often finds itself garnishing a dish.

Fresh parsley leaves add a bright note and a nutritional boost to all kinds of salads. It’s a prominent ingredient in the popular Middle Eastern tabbouleh salad. Parsley leaf is a great ingredient to add to fresh juice blends or green smoothies.

Even parsley stems can be used to impart flavour into soup stocks. Given they may be unappetizing to ingest, you might want to strain them out from the broth or add them in a bouquet garni. What is that you may be wondering? It’s a bundle of herbs usually tied together with string and mainly used to prepare soup, stock, casseroles and various stews. The bouquet is cooked with the other ingredients but is removed prior to consumption.

Culinary herbs like parsley, basil, rosemary and others are easy enough to grow in pots indoors if you don’t have a garden. Or they are perfect additions to container gardens where space is an issue. In winter and spring you can pick up the potted plants at supermarkets to have a shot of freshness while waiting for the gardens to produce.

So if you’re feeling you need a shot of freshness to satisfy your spring palate, remember to give fresh herbs a try.

At times you may purchase a bunch of parsley for a particular reason and find yourself with much of it remaining. The following recipe is perfect for those situations.

Parsley and Pumpkin Seed Dressing

Parsley and Pumpkin Seed Dressing
This bright green dressing ‘screams’ fresh. Use it on your favourite salad combo. It’s also delicious on fish.

1 bunch parsley, chopped (3 cups), tough stems discarded
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2-1/2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 clove garlic
1-2 tbsp. avocado or other mild-tasting oil

In blender, combine all ingredients with 1/2 cup water and blend until smooth. Makes 2 cups.

Louise Racine is a certified nutritional practitioner based in Norwood. She has a passion for food and making a difference in her community.